Regional superhighway needed to reduce Asia's digital divide

03 Jun 2015

A regional information superhighway from the Pacific to Europe is the missing link to tuckling Asia’s digital divide according to a panel discussion at CommunicAsia2015 Tuesday.

Abu Saeed Khan, senior policy fellow at LIRNEAsia, said that Asia is much like an archipelago when it comes to internet connectivity: a patchwork quilt with little or no cross border fiber and an over-reliance on subsea cables.

LIRNEAsia wants an information superhighway along the Asian Highway network: 140,000 kilometers stretching from Japan to Turkey. An agreement has been reached, and later this year, the communication ministers of the region will sign an amendment incorporating the implementation of fiber along the road.

Michael Ruddy, director of International Research at Terabit International, highlighted the severity of the digital divide. In Southeast Asia, the difference of bandwidth per capita in Laos and Singapore is 900 times.

Terabit, commissioned by UNESCAP to consult on the Asian Highway Network project, has identified two critical land links that must be constructed as part of the Asian mesh: Laos to Yunnan, China, and Indonesia to Malaysia on Borneo. Six more cross-border land links in the region are also highlighted: Cambodia-Thailand, Laos-Cambodia, Laos-Myanmar, Myanmar-Thailand, Myanmar-Yunnan and Vietnam-Yunnan.

Doug Madory, director of Internet Analysis at Dyn, spoke of the importance of redundancy and how countries like Nepal and Bhutan, which both now rely solely on transit through India, are pursuing links through China as a backup.

Madory predicts that by 2020 a combination of data sovereignty needs, an anti-NSA backlash and the maturing of OpenStack will remake local hosting around the world, serving data in hosting zones in a more granular way.


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